If you’re like most parents of more than one child, you are probably tired of hearing, “He touched me” or “She’s on my side of the car.” You may also be weary of the bickering and name-calling that are so prevalent with siblings. Even though these ideas are not the only ones parents have come up with, these five strategies for helping siblings get along may be just what you need to get a little peace and quiet in your home.
1. Establish house rules about acceptable behaviour and be prepared to follow through with agreed-upon discipline if they break the rules. When your children know what is expected of them and that you will dole out discipline when necessary, they may be more willing to adhere to the rules better.
2. When the bickering starts, separate the children so you have a chance to talk with each one on their own. Ask them to slowly explain, without calling names or blaming the other child, what caused the disagreement. Acknowledge their feelings and try to understand what is underneath them.
Explain to your children that even though you understand their feelings, the way they handled the situation isn’t acceptable. Are they jealous because their younger sibling gets to do something they weren’t able to do at their age? Are they angry because their older sibling took something away from them? Suggest that they think about what was said and done, how things could have been handled differently and how they can make amends.
Once you have determined the underlying cause, and the children have had a chance to think about things, you can help your children make peace and get along better - until the next time.
3. Try to focus on each child’s strengths rather than on their weaknesses. Try giving your child tasks that allow them to show their accomplishments. Give them a reason to feel good about themselves without having to compare themselves with the other children in the family. Celebrate their uniqueness and ask them to cooperate rather than compete.
4. Obviously you know that each child is an individual but sometimes it is important to verbalize it. While you may enjoy Jane’s singing voice, you also appreciate John’s willingness to help cook. Be sure you let them know that you love each of your children as much as the other and that you don’t have favourites; however, because each child is different you may appreciate different things about them. It may also be helpful to explain why you decided to let one child do something while the other one is told they may not.
5. Encourage them when you see them doing something nice for their sibling or when you catch them playing nicely together. Sometimes hearing “It was very good of you to let your brother play the game instead of continuing to play yourself” or “Thank you for reading to your sister while I was cooking dinner when you wanted to watch television instead.”
These five strategies for helping siblings get along are by no means exhaustive. You may find some strategies work better for your family than others. Remember to use what works and toss the things that don’t. When your children understand that you are serious about their behaviour and their getting along, it may be easier for them to follow the house rules and finally get along with their siblings.